Smarter Better Faster by Charles Duhigg: Book Review and Highlights


We’d all like to improve our productivity. Ideally, this would only involve downloading an app for 99 cents. 🙂 Instead, Charles Duhigg did a lot of research in various areas and filtered out universal concepts that we can apply to our everyday lives. The books is called Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business. I won’t create Cliff Notes for the entire book, but instead here are the big ideas that I want to apply to my own life.

Motivation. People work harder and push themselves more when they believe they are in control. People also work harder when they can apply meaning to their work. Their actions should be an affirmation of their greater values and goals. This, you can motivate yourself by injecting even a little control or your values into the situation. For example, you may be ambivalent about heading a committee this year, but you can state you’ll do it if you can train someone else for the job next year. Or you may not enjoy cleaning up the yard, but you can focus on providing your kids a safe, outdoor place to play.

Goal setting. To get things done, you must move from vague aspirations like “do your best” to concrete plans. You’ve probably heard of SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timeline). However, it is important to start with a big “stretch” goal first, and then break things down into appropriate SMART sub-goals. Otherwise, you are in danger of picking a bunch of little, easy goals in order to check them off your To-Do list.

Here’s a video that Duhigg created called How to Build a Better To-Do List:

Teams and Managing Others. Teams work best when everyone feels that they have the authority to speak their mind. To accomplish this, people need to be sensitive to others so that they feel safe in expressing their opinions. This can be hard to do, but it is critical. I’ve definitely seen the opposite of this many times in group settings. Specific anecdotes show how this applies both to Google tech workers and Toyota’s auto factory workers.

Overall, I felt the book to be well-written and easy to read. The books has a lot of interesting stories to help illustrate the concepts. I like that sort of thing; you may not. I borrowed this one from the library, and I think it was definitely worth the time spent. Don’t skip the Appendix, either.


  1. I fell of the goal setting bandwagon after a book by Bennett got me to try to use my time more efficiently. I looked up this book on amazon. Good reviews Interesting thing is that the print costs less than the kindle book. Hmm…I’ve bookcases overflowing. I may get the a used copy of the paperback and donate to the library when I’m done.
    Thanks for sharing.

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